Back Against The Wall


img_2247I was probably 10 years old. My soccer coach had arranged for an “exhibition match” with a superior team from the Lubbock area. The team was billed as the area’s all-star team and apparently had not lost a match much less been scored on in over two years.

From the moment the whistle blew it was clear the other team was way better than our team. In maybe less than 30 seconds they had their first goal. It broke our team’s confidence immediately. We had just rolled over the area competition in route to a 2nd place finish in the local tournament. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves, the out of town team from Albuquerque that came in had a pretty good showing until we lost the tournament final in penalty kicks 2-1. But we had every reason to believe that the exhibition match, which had been challenged by the local all-star team, would be a great opportunity for our team to build off the tournament momentum. So my coach excitedly accepted the invitation to play the match before heading back to Albuquerque that late fall November Sunday afternoon.

In the first twenty minutes they were up on our team 7-0. I had never seen a team move the ball so efficiently and finish their shots so masterfully. At halftime we were down 12-0. Everyone was ready to give up. Some of our players asked the coach to call the game but he refused. I remember him saying something to the effect that this was a growth opportunity. He wondered out loud how we would respond to our backs being against the wall. Could we get the ball on their side of the field, just once? Something we had been unable to do in the first half at all.

The referee’s whistle blew summoning both teams back onto the field and I can remember feeling this intense feeling of responsibility. I, the team’s leading scorer, had grown accustomed to scoring several goals a game. My team needed a lift and I was going to give it to them.

The other team had the kickoff and passively laid the ball back to one of their midfielders. I sprang forward and before they knew what was happening I had stolen the ball and was headed straight down the field. Then I  dribbled like the wind weaving in and out of their defenders. Finally I drove straight down the field and took a shot from distance. The ball landed squarely in the upper 90 of the opponent’s goal and you could have heard a pin drop. No one saw that coming. Our parents erupted as if we had just won The World Cup.

My dad managed to take a shot with his new camera that showed this little player surrounded by five or six players standing in disbelief with one little blond haired kid with his hands raised in triumph. I had done something that defied logic, I had scored on a team that couldn’t be scored on.

I’d love to tell you our team immediately was inspired and we came all the way back and won. We didn’t. That would be our only score that day but it was enough. We probably lost 20-1 but somehow if you can imagine it, we were the winners that day. As we walked off the field I remember the high fives and the hugs from my teammates. It looked as if we were the victor even though we were clearly not. I looked over at the other team and they all had expressions of disbelief – as if they had lost. Many were in tears and their coach was yelling at them for giving up the score. That goal had driven a spike into the very heart of their unbreakable spirit and it was surreal to have been the one to have done it.

To this day I remember how that felt. The need to make something happen. The desire to be that game changer. The feeling of my team’s back being against the wall. And the real feeling of having nothing to lose by doing something, anything different.

I took action. I knew I could get to that ball. And I knew I could outrun and outshoot that team if I were given a chance. But I didn’t wait for conditions to be perfect. I didn’t rely on the situation hopefully to work out. I made the situation work out by refusing to give up and insuring that it would – even only for a moment. As a ten year old boy I found the fortitude and the power to drive above expectations and create a result that would turn out to be an inspiring turning point in my life – one I refer to often to this day.

How do you respond when your back is against the wall? Do you buckle down and try harder? Do you refuse to give up? That little 10 year old boy still resides deep within my heart and still inspires me to do the impossible. When my back is against the wall and things look hopeless,  I remember they seldom really are. That’s when I do my best work. Take my best shots. Get the results no one ever thought I could.

In my gameroom I have a sign that my wife gave me for my birthday. It states:

The only shots we miss are the ones we never take.

Take yours…and be sure to use the wall as leverage.

Ripple On!!!


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Pete Carroll with headset on